Let Dror Feiler See his Mother!
TWO years ago film director Mike Leigh decided to cancel his participation in a film school in Jerusalem, because of the Israeli state's treatment of the Palestinians, and more especially the government's moves to impose a loyalty oath on Israeli citizens. It cannot have been an easy decision to take. Mike grew up in Habonim, the Labour Zionist youth movement, and has many old friends, and indeed relatives, in Israel.
He bore no animosity to the organisers of the film event, whose invitation he had initially accepted, but what weighed in his mind was concern that his presence, so soon after the Gaza war, would be used and claimed as support for the Israeli government.
This thought-out decision was blown up differently on the front-page of the unsympathetic Jewish Chronicle:
Zionism? To hell with all that, says ﬁlm director
Mike Leigh's distaste for Israel is so bad he won’t even visit his 90-year-old aunt.
I was reminded of the Zionist paper's horror at men failing in their familial obligation to visit elderly relatives when I heard about Dror Feiler's treatment by the Israeli authorities. Israeli-born Dror lives in Stockholm nowadays, but he would dearly love to meet again with his 90 year old mother in Israel. Only the Israeli government says "No". They have an order forbidding Dror from entering the country. I am sure the Jewish Chronicle and other upstanding members of the community, including rabbis mindful of the Fifth Commandment, will have something to say about this.
I first met Dror some years back when we were both attending the founding conference of European Jews for Just Peace, in Amsterdam. I learned that Dror was born on Kibbutz Yad Hanna, in Israel, an unusual community in that its political affinity was with the Communist Party, in which his father Eliezer was active. Dror's mother Pnina was a founder of the kibbutz.
Called up to military service, Dror complied as is common communist practice, and as was something of a kibbutz tradition, became part of an elite unit, a paratrooper. But in 1970 he was one of those who started their own tradition, by refusing to serve in the occupied Palestinian territories. The Israeli government could learn, albeit reluctantly, to handle pacifist "conscientious objectors", and after all it granted exemption for yeshiva students who are rarely pacifists, but it is another matter when soldiers or youngsters facing conscription announce where, and why, their consciences will not permit them to serve.
In 1973, Dror Feiler went to live in Sweden, and renounced his Israeli citizenship, as it was a condition for gaining Swedish nationality. He studied music, becoming a musician and composer, and also an artist, as well as marrying Swedish artist Gunilla Sköld Feiler. In 2004 their artwork Snow White and the Madness of Truth made news when it was vandalised by then Israeli ambassador to Sweden Zvi Mazel, who claimed it glorified Palestinian suicide bombers, and was not interested in their explanation. The work included a pool of blood-coloured water and a portrait of Hanadi_Jaradat, who blew herself up with 21 people in an attack on Maxim's restaurant in Haifa.
Less sensationally, and more straightforwardly, Dror spoke and wrote about Israel and Palestine, and chaired the Swedish organization Jews for Israeli–Palestinian Peace (JIPF) and the European Jews for a Just Peace (EJJP).
Turning from words to deeds, he was aboard the flotilla which included the Mavi Marmara, trying to take aid to Gaza, when it was boarded by Israeli naval commandos on May 31, 2010. He suffered some minor facial injuries at the hands of his captors, who were far from pleased to find that one of the dangerous prisoners they had taken was a former IDF comrade-in-arms! In 2011, Feiler was involved in the Freedom Flotilla II, and was among the 15 activists arrested by Israeli authorities aboard the boat Dignité.
Taken into Israeli custody - and relieved of his mobile phone and other items - Dror was accused of attempting to illegally enter Israel - absurdly, when as he pointed out he had been taken into an Israeli port against his will, Subsequently deported from Israel, Dror was glad to return to Sweden. But the Israeli authorities had not finished with him. They imposed a ten-year ban on him entering Israel.
Dror's mother Pnina, a nurse, is still alive. In fact at the age of 90, a member of Israeli Physicians for Human Rights, Pnina Feiler still travels to work as a volunteer with mobile health clinics working in Palestinian villages in parts of the West Bank where people have to travel far to get access to health-care and other services.
Dror Feiler is naturally very proud of his mother. Wouldn't you be?
He would also like to see her.
There is an international petition asking Israel to show some decency for once, and let Dror Feiler in.